Re: Winter is Coming - a discussion of the Prologue
On August 19, 1991, CNN was providing nonstop live coverage of an attempted coup against Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. Allied with the KGB, hardliners from inside the disintegrating Communist regime had sequestered Gorbachev at his dacha in Crimea and declared a state of emergency. The global press was full of experts and politicians worried that the coup would mark the sudden end of perestroika, or even the start of a civil war, as tanks rolled into the middle of Moscow.
...I was alone in declaring that the coup had no chance of success, and that it would be over in forty-eight hours, not the months Kirkpatrick and many others were predicting. The coup’s leaders had no popular support, I insisted, and their attempt to put a halt to reforms they feared might lead to the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was doomed.
...The coup attempt not only failed, but it accelerated the demise of the Soviet Union by presenting the people of the USSR a clear choice. Dissolution and an independent future was a little frightening, yes, but it could not be worse than the totalitarian present. Like dominoes, republic after Soviet republic declared independence in the following months. Back in Moscow, two days after the failure of the coup, a jubilant crowd tore down the statue of “Iron” Felix Dzerzhinsky, the fearsome founder of the Soviet secret police, in front of the KGB headquarters.
...And so it shocks the imagination that eight years later, on December 31, 1999, a former lieutenant colonel of the KGB became the president of Russia. The country’s nascent democratic reforms were halted and steadily rolled back. The government launched crackdowns on the media and across civil society. Russian foreign policy became bullying and belligerent. There had been no process of purification, no trials for the butchers, and no destruction of the KGB machine. The statue of Dzerzhinsky had been torn down, but the totalitarian repression it represented had not. It had been born again—in the person of Vladimir Putin.
Reformers had major momentum, but ultimately failed. Why? Garry hints at the answer in the following quote.
It has been difficult for Americans to imagine how democratic reforms were overthrown and another dictator allowed to take power; why wasn't Putin stopped? However recent domestic events may provide some insight. All of Trump's opponents during the primary attacked him in very strong terms. Trump attacked and belittled them, including humiliation by insulting the looks of their wives. Now that Trump is President, notice all of his former opponents have caved in and now live in Trump's watch pocket. This is an example of how powerful politicians can be emasculated.
Disclaimer: I am not stating Trump is a dictator, merely observing how the countervailing power within the Republican party has evaporated.